Recently I was invited to a bicycle dealer only event, not unusual as I own a bike shop but where it was got me intrigued. I had heard a bit about Wairoa Gorge Mountain Bike Park which is 60 minutes from Nelson CBD. I had been told it was a hidden mecca for mountain bikers, owned by a billionaire who had built the track network essentially for himself and then allowed the Nelson MTB club to run it for their members. There was rumors of teams of guys building tracks for long periods of times.Yeah right!
Well its true, the Wairoa Gorge MTB Park trails were built between June 2010 and June 2013 by four trail crews with assistance from a building crew and maintenance crew. There were up to fifty staff at any one time on site and well over 100 staff worked the site before passing through to other sites overseas. The trails were built in the sunshine, rain and snow. Through rock, stream beds, gullys, steep exposed faces and amazing beech forests. They can accommodate a maximum of 32 guests to the park every Friday, Saturday and Sunday (private shuttles can be booked on other days). There is 1000m+ vertical climb, the only way to enjoy the park is to be shuttled up the hill, and they have purpose built vehicles and trailers that are made for the job. You can even book out accommodation at their lodge.
Our visit to the Gorge was organised by Specialized to present to us the new Stumpjumper and we get to ride it on trails it was designed for!! Whoop whoop!
As we drove into the park we are told we must wait at the locked gate for one for the staff to let us in. How mysterious is the place? We get there and are told it is going to a bit of a wait, part of the road was covered in a slip. This didn’t sound good. 30 mins goes by and a guy in a Hiace sign written with Nelson MTB club turns up and escorts us in to a large parking area where 30 new Stumpjumpers are waiting for us. We set up the bikes to suit our weight and pedal preferences, reminded to put on our compulsory knee pad, gloves and are given a briefing by one of the staff from the Nelson club.
We are told there are more trails at The Gorge than we will be able to ride in one visit, in fact there is well over 70km of hand built single-track that covers all grades from 2 – 5. We are given a radio for our smaller group, so we can remain in contact with their team throughout the day if we have an emergency. Cell phones don’t work well in here! We are told it’s a magical place set in dense native forest, and with views right across to the sea. If you want to smash out laps as hard as you can then go for it. It's up to you. A typical day is two or three runs before lunch and two or three after lunch (that adds up to between 4000/5000 vertical metres of descending). Now we are getting excited!
We are loaded onto the parks people mover, a 4wd small truck. Bikes are dragged up behind us on a big trailer that is purpose built. No bikes rubbing on each other here! I had wondered why we were not allowed to ride up the hill, I was soon to find out why. The trip to the highest carpark took about 20-30 mins and it was steep ( I can't remember, i was too excited). Some corners were tight, I was glad the driver knew what he was doing.
Once we got to the top the views were awesome. Bikes off and we are told we must climb up some more, up to a peak of around 1100m. This is going to be a serious descent on purpose build single tracks in forestry. Bring it on! The initial trails were soft under foot, flowing, dam good in fact. As we descend, there is a wide selection of riding to suit all tastes – flowing bermy smooth trails, slow techy rock trails, root infested off-camber and relaxing waterfall lined cruisy trails. We are told Nelson easy is not the same as we might expect elsewhere but don’t worry, you can roll most stuff. Great!
The first of what I think was a 900m descent had me smiling and laughing all the way down. One memorable trail was called Bermed As. If you think the big berms at Christchurch Adventure park are good, they aren’t got nothing on this bit of track. The track started out as a cool piece of winding single track through forest, well formed and thought out. I started to think that this bermed thing was going to be a let down and then I came across the first one. Holly Molly! That sucker was big and then there was another and another. WOW! Before we knew it were at the bottom not far away from the main carpark. The transport was waiting for us to have another crack at the trails.
Up the top the crew from Specialized had set up lunch for us at the trailer builders accommodation area. It was hard to imagine anywhere better to be to with great people, yummy lunch and new bikes to ride.
After lunch we are told we told it is time to give the intermediate trails a nudge or if you have big kohuna’s the advanced trails. We split into 2 group and those with the big bits took off on the tougher trails. Once again, we are told, you can roll most stuff. As we head down we stopped at one of many intersections that are signposted with GPS coordinates. I ask why and are told that in case you crash, we can tell the rescue crew where you are. GULP. How hard is these intermediate trails going to be? Turns out it pushed my XC skills to the limits a few times. I only had to walk twice but those trails are awesome.
I would love to organise a club trip up to Wairoa Gorge MTB Park. Sorry I can’t do the new stumpys, yes they were awesome too! If you are keen, let NCCC or me know and lets do this. Check out https://www.thegorge.nz/ for more info
See you out riding
scroll down for more images thanks to @ben.karalus